In Travel

Part 2 of BEAU’d OUT in Costa Rica

I was for the first time in 12 hours speaking English. It was so wonderful to not have to struggle through communications. Carlos is a stocky guy, good-looking and very energetic. I don’t think I ever saw him one time after I met him without a smile on his face. An authentic smile, not a painted one or a forced one. He is a truly happy man and it showed through the way he communicated with me and others. Always laughing, always smiling.

Without hesitation I greeted him back with a heartfelt smile. He was working behind a soda, which is a very, very, very small kitchen. Kind of like a food truck but inlaid in a building instead of a vehicle. The building was basically a shelter for more small shops such as a small bakery, local butchery, and vegetable stand.  He directed me two holes over to grab a six-pack and then to come back and eat at his kitchen. That sounded like the best idea in the world. Heck YEA I want to drink beer, eat fresh authentic food, and speak English for a minute. My whole body relaxed as I cracked open the first Pilsen and slammed it. 

I’m not sure what the sandwich was called that he made me. It was definitely a sandwich, but flat. Not panini flat, but more like it had been smushed by big hands, but it hadn’t. That’s just the way it looked. I usually eat pescatarian but I would have eaten a cows ass at that point. And I’m pretty sure I did. 

All The ingredients in the kitchen were pulled from the surrounding shops  that are made up of purely authentically local and sustainable ingredients. The meat was from the local farms where the cows roam the hills in the clouds and are treated with kindness and appreciation.  The bread was baked in the bakery next door where the flour was made two stores down. Every ingredient was sourced within 5 mile of where I sat from farmers and artisans that had been cultivating their trade for generations. Needless to say, it was the best sandwich I ever had in my life. Every flavor was distinct yet mild. The blend was perfect with a hint of rosemary that grew wild all over this beautiful cloud city. 

For the next several hours, Carlos and I talked and exchange life stories over several more beers. I felt like I had known him forever. He had been married before and moved to The States from Puerto Rico. There, he spent time with his wife for years until they peacefully divorced. He said he was rolling through town one day as a traveler just like I am now. He fell in love with Zarcero and never left. Funny how that can happen sometimes.

There was a small dog hanging out with us. Her fur was thick with her own oils but she exuded no foul smell. She seemed to have a smile and was very sweet in temperament. I couldn’t help but to take interest. She was so laid back with no skittishness. There were a few dogs wondering around the area. I asked Carlos if she had a home. He said “Of course she does, she’s the owner’s dog, her name is Luna. They [the dogs roaming around] all have homes. This is Pura Vida, for everyone. Dogs too.” 

It suddenly made more sense to me. I saw Luna as being dirty and homeless, but she wasn’t. Only to an American that bathes her dog after taking her to the James Island dog park.  Back home, I lead my dog to the pursuit. Here, dogs just live in the bliss. There aren’t really many boundaries when you live within bliss. Little Luna, and all the other ones in the town in the clouds were just plain… happy. Puppy Pura Vida. The people watched out for them. They were part of the towns family. 

There were about 3 people leaning against a wall across the street in the dark. I took them to be homeless or “struggling” in some way. I asked Carlos why they were there and if they had homes? He smiled and said “Oh, they’re just waiting on a ride up the hill. It’s a very steep hill and people are lazy!” He smiles, “People come along and take them up the hills to their home. It’s just the way it is here.” I asked him, what if no one came? He laughed and said, “Someone always comes. That’s Pura Vida!” To me that created a translation of “no fear.” It was becoming more clear. People here don’t sweat the “what if’s” but more retain naturally the positive outlook naturally manifesting positive outcome. Interesting in theory but I’ve never seen it actually resonate within a community, much less a whole country. 

Into the last hour and sixth beer, the inevitable happened. Carlos asked me if I was married or had a boyfriend. Of course I said no but because I was in another culture, I refrained from any further explanation. There was that awkward hesitation and eye shift that we all do when we’re confronted in a situation of “outing” ourself and not knowing if the other person would freak out. Then he asked if I had a girlfriend. Now I can refrain from elaborating, but it’s against everything in me to lie about my sexuality, no matter the consequences. So I took a deep breath and jumped out of the closet. “That’s wonderful,” he said with his a smile, “I’m bisexual.” 

Holy shit! Did I just find an LGBT man to interview in the cloud town?!?! Total destiny. I told him about BEAU Magazine and ask him if I could interview him about LGBT life in rural Zarcero? He agreed and we made plans to meet the next morning for café con leche and more stories. He said he would take me on a walk through the countryside so I can see the layout of the land. Perfecto! 

The roads in the city of Zarcero reminds me of San Francisco, but with only 1% of the merchants in a population of maybe 1500. My body was a complete A-frame shape (except for my booty sticking out so I don’t face plant) as I climbed the streets back to my room.

When I woke up the next day, I felt great.  Maybe it was the fact that I was in a huge oxygen cloud at 1736 meters (5695 Ft) above sea level. I like to think it was because I was excited to talk to my new friend again before leaving this sacred city. I couldn’t wait to hear his story! Rural LGBT life in other countries fascinates me. Sometimes the violence breaks my soul apart. However, this town didn’t strike me as violent at all. It was actually more romantic and appealing to every sense. 

The cafe and omelet were absolutely amazing and much needed. Carlos and I walked through the profound Catholic Church set like a castle in the middle of the square. He introduced me to Evangelista Blanco, the grounds keeper that had been sculpting the bushes into shapes of figures and animals for more than 50 years. I was honored to meet someone with so much pride in their simple yet intricate art. His integrity showed in his faded blue eyes and thick furrowed brows as he carefully cut one leaf at a time. 

We made our way up the steep roads and the conversations began to flow. Carlos was very happy to share his experiences and talked to me about Costa Rican culture and a Latin word called “machismo.” Machismo is an outward expression of the male ego. It is accepted and expected with communications between men and tolerated by the women. However, machismo does not actively exist equally in the LGBT world. In North America,  we refer to this as “keeping it on the down low.” He said that he wouldn’t go as far to say that “… gay lifestyle isn’t obsolete, it’s just not talked about,” he explains. “With men at least. But it’s not uncommon to see two women walking around holding hands. Gay/bisexual women are more tolerated and much less criticized then two men together. That’s part of the machismo.” 

Most of his same sex experiences were with men that were traveling through or working in the trucking industry. His sexual partners were strong, manly men. He told me that because of machismo, you rarely, if ever, see flamboyantly gay men. He also told me that all of the male partners that he had been with in Zarcero had engaged him first. I can totally see that. Carlos is a very good looking man with vibrant confidence and a dynamic personality. 

Carlos enjoys women immensely. He says, “My soul bonds best with a woman.  But I appreciate passion. It’s beautiful.” We talked and walked until we found ourselves on the top of a mountain in the clouds. 

It was hard to say goodbye to my new friend, but La Fortuna and the Nectandra Cloud Forrest were calling my name. I gave him a big hug, packed up my simi-wet clothes and strapped my bag to my bike. He looked sad as he expressed verbally his appreciation of our paths crossing.  With a huge smile and heavy heart, I hugged my friend goodbye and rode “that way.” 

In reflection of the magical moment of Zarcero, I will bring this prospective and recognition into light. Ugly teachers are keepers of liberating freedom. Let me explain. Lost, cold, immediate proposed danger, these are all parts of “the pursuit.” This may be called the “ugly side.” However, I’m realizing that woven within the paths of the universe is are ugly teachers that help enlighten and liberate through perfect balance. 

Balance, also called “equality” is both light and dark, yin and yang, good and evil… just like our life-self. The one thing I refrained from in the first day of this journey was allowing myself to degrade myself when being lost. Yes, a few things I would do differently next time is dually noted for sure. But as I faced my ugly teachers, I found my inside dialog projected proposed elements of negativity or attacks on my self-worth. Upon this immediate recognition, I would smile dismissing the attacks. I made the commitment to gently bring my thoughts back to a space of peace, confidence and steady breath. 

In this practice through my journey of lost, cold, and nervous I also allowed myself to acknowledge the happy cows in the clouds. I was alive and the view is beautiful! My efforts were to find warm and safe, but in this quest, I will appreciate my courage and agreed not to demonize my efforts. It was hard at first but then became a rhythm I happily committed to. 

Through this practice, I found when I finally dropped into the space where I can relax and expand in positivity (like meeting Carlos and sharing beers and conversation #lawofattraction), that I was able to have deeper joy within the moments of laughter and relaxation. I was able to learn more while experiencing the smiles and laughter that gathered within my presence. I was more fluid within perpetuating happiness. In this, I have learned to welcome with an open heart these “ugly teachers.” Because finding the beauty in the dis-ease uncovers the path to true bliss. Pura Vida.

As I continued through illustrious hills, valleys and volcanoes, my mind settled into my heart as she beat steady and peacefully. I gave myself 6 hours of daylight to ride, even though La Fortuna was only 3 hours away. It’s a good thing I did as you won’t believe what happened next! (…to be continued…)

Pictures and words by Maria Rivers

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